A MAN who came to the Capital homeless has described his “dream come true” experience after a chance encounter with two tourists saw him invited to Sweden for Christmas.
Just months ago 54-year-old Jimmy Fraser was begging on George Street when he was asked for directions to a pub by Annis Lindkvist and her younger sister Emma.
An unlikely friendship blossomed, with Annis and Jimmy staying in touch by text after swapping numbers when she returned to say goodbye.
But Annis wanted to do more and so invited Jimmy home for Christmas, going as far as buying his tickets and sending money for a new passport to help make it happen.
Now back in the Capital, Jimmy – who moved to Edinburgh 13 years ago after a family breakdown left him homeless – said he still couldn’t believe what had happened.
“I couldn’t believe it anyway at first,” he said. “People tell you ‘See you tomorrow, I’ll get you a drink’ and then nothing happens but this did happen actually, so it was really weird.
“I told some of my friends and they went ‘No chance, it’s not going to happen’ and I went we’ll find out – if it happens, it happens.
“I got their phone number off them and texted them saying ‘hope you have a safe journey home’ and all that and ‘text me when you get there’.
“We just started texting each other since then and next thing you know I’ve got a passport in my hand and that was it, I was flying away somewhere.”
Annis lives in the Swedish town of Sågmyra with her husband Daniel and three children, aged 13, eight and five, who all welcomed Jimmy open-armed into their annual Christmas celebrations.
Trips to an ice hockey match, Christmas markets and midnight mass followed, with Jimmy also getting to meet much of Annis’s extended family.
He even tried some local cuisine in the form of elk meatballs, which went down well.
Since arriving in Edinburgh, Jimmy has found accommodation through The Ark Trust, a charity for the homeless which closed several years ago.
However he still finds it difficult to make ends meet and Jimmy admitted being “wary” when approached by Annis due to previous abuse he has encountered while begging.
He said: “If somebody’s lying on the street you don’t know if they’re drunk or having a fit.
“People just walk past – they don’t even bother and leave you lying there whereas people like Annis will pick you up and help you. It was amazing, I miss them so much. If I could go back tomorrow I would.”
In fact Jimmy got on so well with Annis and her family that they’ve already invited him back to Sweden for Easter.
He said: “I think people like Annis, there should be more of them, because if it wasn’t for her I don’t know what I’d be doing.
“I’d probably be here over Christmas, sitting in the house on my own doing nothing [and] eating a sandwich whereas I’ve had two Christmas dinners this year which I’ve never had before in my life.
“It’s just really amazing, I just can’t thank them enough. It’s unreal – even though I’m back I still can’t believe it did actually happen.”
As well as his visit to Sweden, Jimmy’s encounter with Annis means he can also start volunteering again in the Capital as his new passport provides him with the ID required.
Jimmy, a dad-of-two, said it was “rare” to have found someone as kind as Annis.
He added: “Show me someone else who would do that, because I haven’t met anybody. She’s so kind, so considerate and I don’t know why she’s done it – I still don’t know, I really don’t, but she’s done it and it happened.
“It was a dream come true, it really was. I wasn’t expecting it.
“It was just unexpected and I’m just really glad that I was there. It was an eye opener and a good experience.
“I really had a fun time and I just can’t wait to go back at Easter.”
And it’s not just Jimmy who is excited for the future, with 37-year-old Annis telling the News she was looking forward to having him back.
Recalling when they first met, she said: “Jimmy was sitting on some stairs and we walked by but my sister stopped and wanted to go back and sit down with him, so we did.
“We sat there for hours, got to meet the people who offer food to the homeless and just talked about life and stuff.
“We went back the last night to see if he was sitting on the same stairs again and he was.
“We wanted to say goodbye and give him a hug. We changed phone numbers and we promised to let him know that we got home safe.
“But I wanted to do more and I know he hasn’t spent Christmas with a family for many years, so I asked him if he wanted to come visit me and my family.”
Annis explained Jimmy spent Christmas Eve with her husband’s family and then Christmas Day with hers.
She said: “A few [people] thought it was a bit crazy since I didn’t know him that much but when they met him they understood.
“He’s a lovely person and they all love him now.
“My youngest kid asks every day when’s he coming back – they miss him a lot.
“He pretty often meets people who say mean things to him and I hope now maybe some people think before they do that.
“He is a person too, with feelings and he gets really sad when they do that.”
Annis, who works in a retirement home for people with dementia, even managed to bag Jimmy an appearance on Swedish television.
“It was just a wonderful Christmas and he really loved it,” she said.
“He got presents and when he went back home we had gotten a big suitcase that weighed 18kg with clothes and things that my friends and family had got him.
“I’m never letting him go – he’s a part of our family now.”